I’ll openly admit that the introduction for this piece has changed somewhat since the announcement of the recent Emirates deal, as I was initially highlighting just how much reliance was required on the academy considering our stringent policy over recent years.
Fortunately, if senior management are to be believed, our approach to transfers may be changing in the very near future. Still, whether or not such investment will allow us to compete with the very best is questionable and only time will provide an answer. Bearing this in mind, it’s a relief to see that the club’s academy is still going strong. I’m sure most people will agree that this is one department where we can compete at the very highest level and judging by some of the players that are coming through, it won’t be too long before we’re talking about the next Jack Wilshere or Kieran Gibbs. After a careful look through the ranks, here are the top five players that I think could make a breakthrough into the Gunners’ first team in the not too distant future…
Out of all of the players on the list, Gedion Zelalem is probably the most highly thought of. At just 15-years-old, Zelalem has only started featuring for the U18 squad recently yet but that hasn’t stopped Wenger from bringing him into recent training sessions with the first team squad.
Zelalem’s international situation is debatable as he can play for numerous countries including Germany, Ethiopia and the United States. What we do know is that his preferred position is central midfielder, where he likes to sit deep and control the pace of the game. Technically, he’s as sound as they come and his passing ability has been likened to Fabregas by some sources.
With Martin Angha now 18-years-old, you would hope that he would be knocking on the door of the first team in the next couple of years. A tall centre half, the Zurich-born defender was courted by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United before signing in 2010.
He’s been capped by various Switzerland youth teams, while he is regarded as a key fixture of the reserve team and made more appearances than any other player for the second string last season.
While he is not yet fully developed, he is regarded as daunting prospect for attackers due to his 6’2″ build – although it’s really his composure on the ball that is his main attribute. Moreover, he is regarded as something of a free kick specialist and this could be one of the reasons why he finds himself as an Arsenal player – after scoring a scorching set play in the game where the club’s scouts first laid eyes on him.
This is one player who could be included in the first team very quickly – if reports are to be believed. It’s been stated by various sources that Wenger has labelled Serge Gnabry as the long-term replacement for Theo Walcott, with the 17-year-old regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the academy. He can operate in any of the attacking positions, although the wings are probably where he is the most dangerous.
Considering his age, many have already commented on the physical presence of Gnarby, while he has that pure technical ability that is practically a prerequisite in our youth team. Of course, he has already managed some substitute appearances this term, but don’t be surprised to see him being included in bigger capacities over the upcoming months.
After Jon Toral made the decision to swap the Nou Camp for the Emirates Stadium in 2011, it’s no surprise to see that many are pinning hopes on him becoming the next Cesc Fabregas. A 17-year-old attacking midfielder, Toral is regarded as a player with all the typical Spanish traits and boasts great vision, passing skills and general box-to-box play.
Unfortunately, his career hit a stumbling block with a horror injury earlier this year, but he is slowly recovering and there are suspicions that Wenger may at least hand him his debut sometime this season.
At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that he’s naturally left footed (always handy), while he wore the No.10 shirt whilst playing for the Barcelona youth teams (a huge achievement, considering his competition).
While we’re on the subject of Toral, we should probably move onto another former Barcelona man – Hector Bellerin. He joined at exactly the same time as Toral and while his reputation probably isn’t quite as glistening, great things are still expected.
Bellerin can only be described as the typical continental right back, with his attacking play being one of his assets. He boasts great pace and at just 17-years-old, it’s impressive to see that he’s already made inroads into the Gunners’ reserve team.
This article was written by Liam, who is always trying to spot the best talents from academies up and down the country. He also runs his own sports website, which looks to compare betting offers from around the world.
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